Thesaurus

sparse

adjective

Synonyms & Antonyms of sparse

See the Dictionary Definition 

Frequently Asked Questions About sparse

How does the adjective sparse differ from other similar words?

Some common synonyms of sparse are meager, scanty, scant, skimpy, and spare. While all these words mean "falling short of what is normal, necessary, or desirable," sparse implies a thin scattering of units.

a sparse population

When might meager be a better fit than sparse?

Although the words meager and sparse have much in common, meager implies the absence of elements, qualities, or numbers necessary to a thing's richness, substance, or potency.

a meager portion of meat

In what contexts can scant take the place of sparse?

The words scant and sparse are synonyms, but do differ in nuance. Specifically, scant suggests a falling short of what is desired or desirable rather than of what is essential.

in January the daylight hours are scant

When is it sensible to use scanty instead of sparse?

While in some cases nearly identical to sparse, scanty stresses insufficiency in amount, quantity, or extent.

supplies too scanty to last the winter

When could skimpy be used to replace sparse?

The meanings of skimpy and sparse largely overlap; however, skimpy usually suggests niggardliness or penury as the cause of the deficiency.

tacky housing developments on skimpy lots

Where would spare be a reasonable alternative to sparse?

In some situations, the words spare and sparse are roughly equivalent. However, spare may suggest a slight falling short of adequacy or merely an absence of superfluity.

a spare, concise style of writing

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More About sparse

Time Traveler for sparse

Time Traveler

The first known use of sparse was in 1753

See more words from the same year

Thesaurus Entries Near sparse

spars

sparse

sparseness

See More Nearby Entries 

Cite this Entry

“Sparse.” Merriam-Webster.com Thesaurus, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/thesaurus/sparse. Accessed 30 Jul. 2021.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

More from Merriam-Webster on sparse

Nglish: Translation of sparse for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of sparse for Arabic Speakers

WORD OF THE DAY

Test Your Vocabulary

Dog Words Quiz

  • shiba puppy more or less demanding cuddles
  • Which of the following animals has a dog in its etymology?
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!

TAKE THE QUIZ
Universal Daily Crossword

A daily challenge for crossword fanatics.

TAKE THE QUIZ
Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!